Reviews

On the Threshold

On the Threshold book coverThe Heart of Everyday Experience
A New Yorker by birth, Andrew moved to Minnesota in her 20s, eventually buying a friend’s white bungalow in south Minneapolis. The house-with its peeling screen door; conservative neighbor, Evelyn; and checkerboard-style, claw-footed bathtub with red painted toenails-quickly became a source of reflection and the subject of many of the 38 essays in this collection: “This is my spiritual discipline, this reading of my house for heart and meaning.” For Andrew–author of Writing the Sacred Journey and Swinging on the Garden Gate, a memoir about being bisexual and Christian–the physical universe is a springboard into spiritual realities: “Irrevocable, indisputable experience continues to unleash mysteries.” Foundations and basements lead to “engagement with the mystery lurking at the root of all things.” Falling chunks of plaster hint that “by tending the temporary, we touch what’s eternal.” Dad brings his tools to fix the front porch, and “we work on a house that… is really the soul we, side by side, are learning to tend.” Beyond the bungalow, she swims in a northern Minnesota lake, worships in a church at the base of the Witch’s Hat water tower, listens to whistling trains and finds love. Adroitly interweaving story, description and reflection, these introspective essays will appeal to those who savor language and recognize the sacred at the heart of everyday experience. (Apr. 12)
Publishers Weekly

A Master of Art
“Exquisitely written…richly textured examination of place, flesh, community, mystery, imagination, church, prayer, and miracles… And we love an author who can consistently turn places, things, and ordinary experiences into gateways to a more soulful life. Hats off to Andrew as a master of the art of everyday spirituality.”
Spirituality & Health Magazine, March 2005

Honest, Never Preachy
Taking her south Minneapolis bungalow as a central metaphor for the soul, Andrew considers the importance of place (place of origin and place of choice), the various negotiations and treaties of neighborhood living, writing as a spiritual discipline, the rigors of meditation and prayer, and the possibility of literal miracles in an allegedly rational age:

“When it comes to dwelling with a story, the adults are far more reticent, although we have our own subtle, socially acceptable means—costumes, the pastor’s white robe and the choir’s slippery blue with triangle bibs; poetry, the sacred language of psalms and psalters, undulating recitations blending our voices; and ritual, breaking bread and passing the cup, allowing us to relive a moment that may or may not have happened but becomes true when we fall to our knees.”

Aside from the careful way that craft is never sacrificed to message, one of the things I like best about Andrew’s work is the nuanced and honest way she talks about her own religion and spirituality. Never preachy, she takes us to ecstatic heights of revelation, yet unapologetically admits to fidgeting during the sermon at her Methodist church. It is an interesting and useful book for readers of any, or no faith. Publisher’s Weekly writes, “Adroitly interweaving story, description and reflection, these introspective essays will appeal to those who savor language and recognize the sacred at the heart of everyday experience.”
— Lucy Vilankulu, Minnesota Literature

Making Sense of a Chaotic World
Andrew makes clear from the start that she is no holier-than-thou ascetic. She is too earthbound, too much in love with the flesh-and-blood of everyday life. And yet she admires, with deep affection, Christianity and the Christian tradition. Jesus has become a model for her, and she does her best to emulate him in her work as a freelance writing teacher and spiritual director. But she hasn’t much patience for the shortcomings of the institutional church. What interests her is the Christian story, and she attempts to make sense of a chaotic world through the medium of story. Raised a Methodist in upstate New York, she moved to Minneapolis when 18. Fifteen years later, she is still there, stoking a sense of community within a circle of writers, liberal theologians, and others. Modest in the best sense of the world, her book affords a nuts-and-bolts look at the spiritual life and a meditation on what it means to be human and to live a faith-based existence in an increasingly inhospitable, messy world.
Booklist, American Library Association

A Valuable Contribution
[Elizabeth J. Andrew] has engaged me in her spiritual quest and will, I suspect, engage those segments of LGBT communities who struggle with organized religion and childhood beliefs. This book seems a really valuable contribution to that struggle and that dialogue. To people who have made the choice to stay in their churches and/or continue to cultivate a more or less traditional spiritual life, On the Threshold offers support and a real, sensible, engaged model for that cultivation.
— Susan Leonard, Lambda Report

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